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China to urge Tokyo to change stance on islands dispute

Publication Date : 25-09-2012


Beijing will urge Tokyo today to change its stance on the disputed islands in East China Sea in talks with the highest-level diplomat Japan has sent to China after its illegal "purchase" of part of the islands.

The "purchase" ignited the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries in years.

Observers said Japan's sincerity remains to be proven and the talks may make little difference if Tokyo refuses to make concessions in its hardline stance.

Japan's Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai, the most senior unelected official in the ministry, arrived in Beijing yesterday.

"At the request of Japan, China has agreed to Japan's Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai visiting China on Monday [yesterday] and Tuesday [today], to hold consultations with Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on current China-Japan relations, especially the Diaoyu Islands [known in Japan as Senkaku Islands] issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular news briefing yesterday.

"China will clarify its position on the Diaoyu Islands and urge Japan to correct its mistakes as well as make efforts to improve ties with China," Hong said.

Lu Yaodong, director of the department of Japanese diplomacy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it has been Tokyo's long-term policy to deny the existence of the territorial dispute. Consequently, the Japanese "may not make substantial changes to their stance" during the talks, Lu said.

Meanwhile, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported that Yang Yanyi, assistant minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, will pay a four-day visit to Japan in early October to discuss the islands. Beijing has not confirmed the trip.

Two surveillance vessels, the Haijian 66 and Haijian 46, entered waters near the islands yesterday morning.

The State Oceanic Administration said the two vessels were undertaking a "defensive" patrol near the islands.

The Japanese Coast Guard demanded the Chinese ships move out of the area, but received no response, a Japanese official said.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said it had lodged an official protest with the Chinese ambassador to Japan against the move.

Liu Youfa, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said China's recent frequent patrol missions have displayed enhanced control and an "overlapping presence" against Japan's illegal reach over the islands and adjacent waters. This has shown to the international community, Liu said, that the islands do not belong to Japan.

Kawai's visit came a day after China said it will delay a long-planned ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of normalised ties on Thursday.

Japan's government spokesman Osamu Fujimura expressed yesterday strong regret over Beijing's decision, and he said it remains important for the two countries to "deepen strategic relations".

German broadcaster Deutschlandradio said in a commentary over the weekend that Japan cannot solve, what it called, its territorial disputes with China without thorough and critical examination of its aggression during World War II.

"Without thorough and critical examination of the past, Japan cannot solve the open territorial disputes," said Peter Kujath, author of the article.

Hong, the spokesman, said the 40th anniversary should have been an opportunity for the two countries to push their ties forward.

Yet Tokyo insisted on "buying" the islands, which severely infringed upon China's territory and sovereignty, and Tokyo "should bear all the consequences", Hong said.

The Japan-China Economic Association, which previously planned to visit China yesterday, has suspended the trip, Japan's Mainichi Daily News reported.

China has sent more than 10 government patrol vessels to waters near the islands. Chinese fishing boats are ready to fish in the area.

China announced during the weekend that it will use unmanned drones to strengthen maritime surveillance over waters around the islands.

An analysis piece by Reuters said yesterday that while the presence of the Chinese surveillance ships and Japan Coast Guard ships in the area might appear to set the stage for trouble, military experts said each side would try to avoid a clash.

"The bad news is that China sent ships to the area. The good news is that they are official ships controlled by the government," said Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

In another move, a group of fishermen from Taiwan said as many as 100 boats escorted by 10 coast guard vessels from Taiwan would arrive in the area later yesterday.

People across the Straits should make efforts in their own ways to protect China's territorial integrity and the overall interests of the Chinese nationals, Hong said.

The waters off the islands have been traditional fishing grounds for generations of Chinese fishermen.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will visit New York to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba will accompany Noda to the UN and is seeking to arrange talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, possibly tomorrow, according to a Kyodo report. Yet Hong, the spokesman, said he has not heard of any such arrangements.


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